How to Judge, Part One

Matthew 7:1-6
P.G. Mathew | Sunday, September 07, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P.G. Mathew

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:1-6

“Do not judge or you too will be judged.” In this study we will consider, first, what Jesus meant when he said, “Judge not,” and, second, how we should judge.

This particular prohibition of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Do not judge,” is one of the most misunderstood statements in the Scripture. It is especially misunderstood by unbelievers, those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. Such people will often quote this verse in an attempt to muzzle a Christian’s clear presentation of the truth of the gospel. So we first need to understand what Jesus was really saying when he said, “Judge not.”

What “Judge Not” Does Not Mean

What did Jesus Christ mean when he made this prohibition? Was he saying that Christians should not have any opinions? Does “judge not” mean that Christians should always take a middle-of-the-road position? Does it mean that Christians must be tolerant of all views in all situations? Does it imply that Christians, therefore, should view all religions as equally valid and refrain from evangelism because when they evangelize they are judging those who believe differently? Does it mean that Christians should believe, not that every man is a sinner, but, rather, that everyone is good and getting better every day? Does it mean that Christians should stop preaching the gospel because the cross is foolishness to the Greek and a stumbling block to the Jews?

The answer to all these questions is a resounding “No!” This is not what Jesus is teaching. When Jesus instructed us to “judge not,”he was not asking us to be mindless and saccharine sweet all the time. Jesus was not asking his people to rid themselves of their critical powers and go with the flow of their feelings. No, as disciples of Christ we must use our minds because God has renewed them, and we are, therefore, enabled and instructed to think God’s thoughts after him.

Christians Must Judge

Therefore, when Jesus said “Judge not” he was not telling his disciples never to judge. In fact, in verse 6 of Matthew 7 we read, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Here Jesus was instructing us to make judgments, not of literal dogs and pigs, but of people. We must discern who people are and not give the precious gospel truth to those who will only mock it and despise it. When people do that, they are behaving as unclean, undiscerning, violent dogs and pigs. We are called to judge such people.

In Matthew 7:15 Jesus also said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Here again Jesus was telling us to exercise judgment. He was speaking about religious teachers who are false and preach lies from their own subjectivity for the singular purpose of destroying people. Some people are ferocious wolves, according to Jesus Christ, and therefore Christians must use their critical minds. We must judge and reject the false prophecies of false prophets as lies. In fact, Jesus himself pronounced judgment on false teachers as we read in Matthew 23:33: “You snakes! You brood of vipers!” Jesus said to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. “How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Additionally, we can argue that if Jesus was telling us not to judge at all, how can God’s delegated authorities judge? The Bible clearly instructs us that the state must judge through its magistrates. In the church God appoints leaders to judge and exercise discipline in order that the purity of the church may be maintained. Church leaders must judge and cast out any heretics and oppose their heresy. In a home also parents are required by God to judge and guide their children in the right way of the Scriptures. Can you imagine your teenager telling you that Jesus said “Judge not” when you are correcting that person and pointing him or her to God’s good and perfect way? So God clearly is not prohibiting all forms of judgment in Matthew 7:1.

What Does It Mean to Judge?

Therefore, let us examine what it means to judge in a biblical manner. In the Greek, the word for judge is krino , which has a range of meanings. It means to judge judicially, to discern and to condemn. The sense in which Jesus uses it here is: Do not be hypercritical, judgmental, censorious of your brother. Do not be a faultfinder and fruit inspector-general, in other words.

In verse 3 Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” The word for look is blepo , meaning to gaze at, to keep looking at something. Jesus is speaking of a person who has no time to consider the iron girder in his own eye, but who is always looking for the slightest misstep of everyone else. There are people like that–I call them inspector-generals. Such people take upon themselves this amazing responsibility to be a critic of everyone else. So Jesus is telling us, “Do do not be a faultfinder. Do not pronounce a final judgment of condemnation on your brother. That is God’s business, not yours.”

We are not supposed to judge without love and mercy. Ancient rabbis spoke about two measures of judgment, justice and mercy, and you must ask yourself what measure are you going to use. Some people use only justice, although they want to be judged all the time with the measure of mercy. But here Jesus speaks against this kind of behavior.

What Is False Judgment?

In this passage Jesus was speaking against people straining the gnat but conveniently swallowing the camel of one’s own greater sin. He was speaking against the Pharisaic functioning of an ophthalmologist who is blind because he has an iron girder sticking out of his own eye. We are told about the blind leading the blind, but this is worse–a blind ophthalmologist!

Jesus was speaking, not against a public official judging properly, but about the private, personal judging of a fellow brother. He was speaking against one judging another based on false reports and rumors. Have you ever heard the saying, “Have a keen sense of rumor”? He was speaking against such activities.

Jesus was also speaking against making rash judgments such as a crowd made against him in John 7:20 when they declared, “You are demon-possessed.” Jesus was speaking against hypocritical judgment, the kind David exercised in 2 Samuel 12. Jesus was speaking against the judging of a brother without the measure of mercy. He was speaking against judging by appearance, which he himself prohibited in John 7:24, knowing that God judges not by outward appearance but on the basis of one’s heart.

Therefore, when Jesus said “Judge not” he was not speaking against the legitimate use of the critical powers God gave us to make judgments. No, he was speaking against any judgment that is not based upon the Holy Scriptures, because the Bible alone is the basis of all judgment when it is understood correctly through rigorous study.

Example of False Judgment: David

The Scriptures give us several examples of people exercising wrong judgment. King David was a great man of God. He was an elect, a man born of God and led by the Spirit, the sweet singer of Israel, a man of great prayer and great worship. Yet David became arrogant and committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. Then he murdered Uriah without mercy and took Bathsheba to be his wife. But then God came to David through the prophet Nathan.

In 2 Samuel 12 beginning with verse 1 we read, “The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.'”

In verse 5 we see a demonstration of hypocritical judgment. It says, “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!'” That is the kind of judgment Jesus Christ is prohibiting here. And what did Nathan say to David? “You are the man!”

David was blind. He had an iron girder sticking out of his eye and yet he was eager to judge the man who had stolen a ewe lamb. And in great anger he pronounced judgment on the man: He deserves to die.

What was David doing? He was looking at the sawdust in someone else’s eye. Oh, he could see it so clearly! And in judgment he declared that man should die for the sin of sawdust, all the time ignoring what himself had done against Almighty God. Isn’t it interesting how conveniently we judge others while refusing to consider the huge monstrosity that is in ourselves?

Example of False Judgment: Elijah

In 1 Kings 18 we read how Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel. There was a demonstration to determine who the true God was. Elijah killed 850 false prophets, and Queen Jezebel sent him a threat, saying, “I will kill you.” Elijah became very depressed and afraid, and so he ran away all the way to Mount Horeb.

In 1 Kings 19:10 Elijah told God, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” And in verse 14: “He replied, ‘I’ve been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.'”

Elijah was a great man but he made a false judgment. He had lost his mind because of self-pity, emotionalism, and subjectivity. But God does not put up with this kind of thing so in verse 18 he told Elijah, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” In other words, God was saying, ” Seven thousand, Elijah! I have seven thousand who worship me!” Elijah’s judgment was wrong and false, and God let him know that.

Example of False Judgment: The Unmerciful Servant

In Matthew 18 we find another illustration of the wrong kind of judgment. There was a man who owed a huge sum of money–ten thousand talents, which in modern terms means millions of dollars. He went to the creditor and confessed that he did not have the money. This man wanted the creditor to judge him with mercy, not justice, and the creditor did so, forgiving him all ten thousand talents. But when this man came out from the presence of his creditor, he saw a man who owed him a small amount, one hundred denarii, which was less than a hundred dollars. But the forgiven man judged the other with justice. He grabbed him, choked him, and had him thrown into jail. The second man pleaded with the first one, but the first refused to show mercy. That is the kind of judgment that Jesus Christ is forbidding and prohibiting.

Example of False Judgment: The Pharisee

In Luke 18:10 Jesus spoke about two men who “went up the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” These were both Jewish people, meaning they were people of God in a general sense. Verse 11: “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself.” This Pharisee was fixated on and fascinated by himself. What did he pray? “God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.” You see the judgment in this man’s prayer. Now, he had a big iron girder sticking out of both of his eyes, but he was very eager to detect the sawdust in the eye of the publican. “‘I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'” Jesus continued, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.'”

Who went home justified, according to Jesus Christ? The publican. But the Pharisee, this iron girder man who judged himself better than everyone else, went home damned. Such judgment is what Jesus Christ is forbidding us to engage in.

Example of False Judgment: The Woman Caught in Adultery

n John 8 we find a group of sanctimonious, self-righteous Pharisees who caught a woman committing adultery and dragged her before Jesus. “What do you say about this woman?” they asked. Oh, they had already judged her. But Jesus told them, “Those who have no sin, cast the first stone,” and we know they all left. Then Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Now, sin is very serious business, and there is only one person who never sinned–Jesus Christ, very God and very man. He died on the cross in behalf of that woman’s sin. But look at these Pharisees. They are rebels. They did not see their own sin but they were fascinated by the sin of this woman. I call such people inspector-generals. They do not see their sin but focus on the sins of others. (PGM) Such people may come to this church and do their job, but if they do, they will be sent away. Why? Here we preach grace, forgiveness, repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reasons to “Judge Not”

So when Jesus told us to judge not, he meant not to judge in a hypercritical, censorious, hypocritical way, and then he gives some reasons why we shouldn’t judge falsely.

  1. Such judgment will boomerang on you. In Matthew 7:2 Jesus said, “For in the same say you judge others, you will be judged. . . .” If you are going to be censorious, it will boomerang on you. If you are hypercritical of others, they will be hypercritical of you also.

    “Well,” you might say, “I can deal with man’s criticism.” But this judgment will also boomerang on you in the sense that God will judge you. Some people say, “We crossed from death to life on the basis of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I agree wholeheartedly with that, but let us be clear-headed about this. There are three judgments we must face.

    First, Paul speaks of a judgment of the church in 1 Corinthians 11:30-32: “That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” There is a judgment the people of God experience in the church. It is called chastisement. Hebrews 12 speaks about the same thing. There is severe chastisement at times that results even in the physical death of a believer.

    Second, there is the final judgment, which we read about in Matthew 7 as well as in Matthew 25. There is a final judgment of sheep, who are God’s people, and goats, who are the wicked. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again in great glory and power. To him is given all judgment, and he will judge. But those who have trusted in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation are vessels of mercy, prepared for glory, and they shall be judged righteous.

    Third, there is a judgment of reward, which we read about in 2 Corinthians 5:10 and 1 Corinthians 3. The apostle Paul was very aware of this judgment of reward, and, as a result, he conducted himself very carefully in his daily life.

    In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The judgment of reward is made on the basis of what we have done in our body. And in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 we read, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” So we should not judge falsely, because such judgment will come back on us. Not only will men judge us severely with justice, but God himself will judge us.

  2. The measure by which you mete out judgment to others will be used for you. What is another reason we should not judge in a wrong way? Jesus said, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2). What measure are you using for judgment–justice or mercy? May God help us to use mercy! We must show mercy to others so that mercy will be shown to us.

    Suppose you say, “No, I want to operate on the basis of two measures. I want everyone else to be judged on the basis of justice but I want to be judged on mercy.” In James 2:12-13 we read, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” Jesus Christ is giving a threat here. He is saying, “You determine the standard, the measure, and it will be measured to you by the same measure.”

Qualifications for Judging

What, then are the qualifications for proper judging of a brother or sister?

  1. We must speak the truth in love. Truth is that which is revealed to us from God’s word. It is objective, but we must always act in love when we minister God’s truth to our brothers and sisters. In other words, read 1 Corinthians 13 before you go and minister judgment to someone.
  2. We must remember that we are still sinners ourselves. A Christian stands by God’s grace alone. Martin Luther spoke of being simul iustus et peccator , meaning simultaneously justified and at the same time a sinner. If we keep that in mind, it will give us some sobriety when we judge others.
  3. We must investigate. Know the facts and circumstances of a person before you judge.
  4. Judge yourself first. In other words, take the girder out of your own eye before you look for the sawdust in your brother’s eye. Now, if we do see something in another person, we must remove that problem because, like sawdust, it is irritating and troubling to that person. We need to minister to others. However, before we can do that, we must take out our own beam. Then, Jesus says, we will be able to see clearly. The Greek word for see is diablepo , meaning you will be able to see through to the reality very clearly. No longer will you be blind, but you will become an able ophthalmologist with twenty-twenty vision. You will be able to see what is going on in a person and help that person.

    It is essential to judge ourselves first, though. Why? We can be so blind without knowing it. In Revelation 3:17-18 we have an illustration of this. Jesus told the church of Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

  5. Judgment must be according to truth; therefore, we must study the Scripture systematically. As I said before, some people will open the Bible and say, “It says, ‘Judge not,'” and then they will run around telling everyone, “Judge not” in every situation. The problem is, they do not understand at all what Jesus was saying. We must interpret every scripture in the context of the totality of God’s revelation.
  6. We must pray. If a person is a fellow believer, you must pray for that person before judging him or her.
  7. We must examine our own motives and spirituality. Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” If we want to minister to someone in this way, we must make sure that we ourselves are spiritual, meaning that we are led, guided and taught by the Holy Spirit.

    We should also be clear as to what our job is. Our goal is to restore the person, and the Greek word for restore is the same one used for setting broken bones so that they can repair. So we must have an interest in the healing and restoration of a person. And if that process is likened to that of setting broken bones, how should we go about it? Gently. Isn’t that true? We must restore the person gently in a spirit of meekness. Why do we need a spirit of meekness? Because of the sobriety of the situation. Paul warns, “Watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

    We must always keep David in our minds. He was a great man of God, and yet he did all the horrible things we read about in 2 Samuel 11. Like David, at any moment we may fall also. That should give us sobriety.

  8. We must be patient . Second Timothy 4:2 tells us to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” It is not always easy to be patient. A person may come to you again and again and again, saying that he sinned. We must welcome him with great patience as well as careful instruction. We must bear with any person who is weak and stumbling.
  9. We must act in a way to bring a person to sound faith . In Titus 1:13 we read, “This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith. . .” healthy in the faith, in other words. What is our interest in exercising biblical judgment on a person? To bring soundness, redemption and healing to that person. All judgment must have that purpose of bringing a brother or sister back to spiritual health.

The Value of True Judging

What, then, is the value of true, biblical judging? There is great value in it. Proverbs 25:12 tells us, “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.” A wise man’s rebuke is an ornament. It is glory and beauty and enhances our persona. If no one ever rebukes you, I feel sorry for you. May God help us by sending wise men into our lives who will rebuke us. Why? Their rebukes will enhance our glory and character. Such a rebuke is like fine gold, the Scripture says.

In Psalm 141:5 we read, “Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil on my head.” Elsewhere we are told the Lord is our shepherd who anoints our heads with oil. In other words, then, a rebuke from a righteous man, a wise man, is cause for great celebration. It adds to our beauty and joy.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If you want to look at this mathematically, you could say that fifty percent of the purpose of Scripture is for teaching and training and fifty percent is for rebuking and correcting. Rebuking and correcting are equal parts, in other words, of the function of Scripture. Why? Because they equip us, furnish us and make us competent to do good works. They enable us to live Christian lives that are pleasing in the sight of God.

The Most Important Judgment

In conclusion, then, let us remember that Jesus suffered at the hands of men the most unrighteous and ignominious judgment in the history of the world. He was without sin, perfect man, divine judge, the one and only Son of God. Jesus was God, and even Pilate said three times, “I find no fault in him. Yet Pilate condemned Jesus and ordered him to be crucified as a criminal. Despite his innocence, the Sanhedrin convicted Jesus for affirming the truth that he was the Christ, the Son of God. They judged him unrighteously and God permitted this human travesty of judgment. In the will of God, therefore, Jesus was judged in our place, crucified in our place, buried in our place, and raised up in our place. He died for us and was raised for our justification.

So the most important question in the whole world that we can ask is, “What do you say about Jesus Christ? How do you judge him? Do you think he was just a teacher or a man, a demon-possessed person or a lunatic? How do you judge him who is the Creator of the whole universe? It is by him all things hold together. It is by him that we all breathe and live. It is he who sustains the birds of the air and gives beauty to the lilies of the field. It is he who is God over all, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. It is he who has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures.”

The Bible says Jesus Christ is perfect man, true God, King of kings and Lord of lords, the only Savior. And if he is the Lord, the Messiah, the God/Man, and the only Savior, my question to you is, “Have you trusted in him alone for your salvation?” You may think that Jesus needs our sympathy, but that is not true. No, you need his sympathy, and compassion, sympathy, and salvation will flow to you on the basis of your trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.

The day is coming when Jesus Christ shall come again in great power and glory. Two and a half billion people recently saw the power, pomp and pageantry at the funeral of a world-famous person on television. But let me tell you, there is coming a day when Jesus Christ will come with all glory, honor, and power. On that day every eye shall see him. He will be coming to judge as well as to save. To those who have trusted in him alone for their salvation, he will come to judge savingly, praise be to God. On that day he will say to us, “I see you as innocent. I see no guilt or sin on you. You are all perfectly righteous.” Can he be just in justifying us in that way? Yes, because he took all our sins on himself and gave his perfect righteousness to us. So he will say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, and take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the whole world.”

How Do You Judge Jesus?

Therefore, we must ask this all-important question: How do you judge Jesus Christ? He is giving us an opportunity now to judge him correctly, but then he will come to judge us. Young man, young woman, old man, old woman, how do you judge Jesus of Nazareth?

You must make a judgment. Now, I do not believe every religion is of equal validity. I believe that Christianity alone speaks about the way of salvation and that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior. I do not know where many people will go when they die. That is between them and God. But today you can ensure that when you die, you will go straight into the presence of God. How? You must put away all arrogance, pride, self-sufficiency, and fascination with yourself. Stop behaving like the Pharisee who prayed to himself. Bow down and kiss the Son.

May God have mercy upon us all and help us to make righteous judgments! Thank God, he granted some of us the great privilege of answering the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Our heavenly Father gave us a revelation in the depths of our being so that we could judge correctly and declare, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We have been saved and justified, and therefore we rejoice in the Lord! And if you have never confessed Christ as your Savior, I beseech you that you do that today. Amen.